The Wall Street Journal has become the latest mainstream news outlet to report on the issue of alarm fatigue, noting that between 2010 and June 2015, The Joint Commission received reports of 138 patient deaths related to alarm management issues. The organization’s January 2016 deadline for its national patient safety goal on alarm management has hospitals “scrambling to meet some of the new requirements and to get staffers to comply,” the newspaper reports.

“Culture is probably the hardest part of alarm management because staffers are used to doing things their own way,” says Rikin Shah, a senior consultant at ECRI Institute.

The article cites a number of studies indicating that overly sensitive alarms contribute to greater alarm desensitization and lengthened nurse response times. In many cases, reducing the number of audible alarms or introducing a brief delay has helped reduce alarm fatigue without causing adverse effects. Some facilities, such as the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s children’s hospital, have also experimented with mobile device alerts to notify physicians and nurses out of earshot when a patient is in serious trouble.

According to Ronald M. Wyatt, The Joint Commission’s medical director for healthcare improvement, patients and their families can assist nurses by learning about which alarms are most important and serving as an extra set of eyes and ears.

The full article is available on the Wall Street Journal website.

Photo credit: © Johannes Gerhardus Swanepoel |